Friday, April 15, 2016



My knuckles tore at the canvas of the airplane’s seat’s arms as my son watched a documentary on great white sharks.  His eyes glowed with joy at surfboards with horror-movie bloodstains, defenseless tuna, and seals bitten in half by these beautiful monsters.  

More turbulence.

As we landed in Boston, my hands relaxed.  He turned his TV off.  I asked, “What did you think?” (meaning the 7 days in Florida).  He said, “I like the one that flies” (meaning the South African great white shark who kills as it soars through the air, like a plane in a windless cloud).

.                                               Link

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Favorite Mythical American Hero

They march all day through Lexington and Fort Ticonderoga.
Half-boots land on dirt in time to “Yankee Doodle Dandy,”
muskets waiting to drink the powder that kills.
Their minds drift to wives sewing buttons by the hearth
and defeating the “royal brute,” King George III.
The rainwater soaks their ash-gray wool uniforms
but their knees reach high as the march continues.
Families from farmhouse windows
see them pass and marvel at their speed.
The Redcoats haven’t a chance, they think,
against these men under the command of Major Dickason.
The rain somehow seems to make them faster.

I open my eyes and hear it drip into my mug.
 “Pete’s Coffee” –
“Major Dickason’s Blend: Dark Roast,”
enough to keep me fighting one more day.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tools of the Trade

My Favorite Poem EVER - Shakespeare's 29th Sonnet (link)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

When I teach Shakespeare’s 29th sonnet,
I never mention Home Depot.

In this ultimate ‘grass is greener’ poem,
Shakespeare’s tortured speaker
only sees what he doesn’t have.
His brand of poverty whitewashes all the color from his life –
“with what I most enjoy contented least,” he tells us.
He simply can’t go on.

Then the mere thought of his beloved,
this faceless lover whom we never meet,
saves him.

Many men I know enjoy
the monastic quiet of their garages,
the comfort of their toolboxes,
the Zen-like tinkering on projects with no deadline,
the work its own reward.
Salvation with dirt under its fingernails.

I admire these men.
but their heart to me is as mysterious
as Sonnet 29 is to my students.

“What I most enjoy” is the adolescent face
that forgets what time it is because the book is so good,
or sitting on a leather sofa in silence,
and sipping tea while reading Richard Russo or Mary Oliver.
I enjoy throwing the baseball with my son
and waiting for him to share his day.
I enjoy playing Elton John’s “Mona Lisa and the Mad Hatters,”
then making homemade Bolognese sauce
for a family birthday party.

These simple moments bring me back from inadequacy,
from thinking my life may be too small.
But honestly anything– a tooth extraction – anything
is preferable to the cavernous aisles at Home Depot,
with hieroglyphics whose letters are made of tools I can’t name,
a retreat that feels too much like surrender,
its nails digging under my skin,
reminding me of all the things I don’t know.